Essay: Evaluating The Wonders Of A NBA Amnesty Clause, Part V
Here’s Part V of Shaky Ankles’ analysis into the league’s worst contracts—team by team.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kendrick Perkins, five-year, $40,252,656 renegotiated and signed in February 2011.
When discussing value, Kendrick Perkins could be the most polarizing player in all of basketball. For someone whose overall game lacks almost every aesthetically pleasing aspect in its makeup, Perkins inspires more never ending arguments than any current player I can think of. Here are a few examples: He’s the reason Boston lost to Miami (despite an inconsistent offense—definitely not Perk’s specialty— and Rajon Rondo’s broken arm serving as the Celtics true downfall), the missing piece in Oklahoma City’s nearly complete championship puzzle, an emotional leader, and the best defensive center in basketball not named Dwight Howard. Since being traded in what has become last season’s most scrupulously studied deadline deal, opinions on who Kendrick Perkins, the player, really is, and what he stands for in the bigger picture, have traveled through a long gauntlet of different checkpoints.
This isn’t about whether the trade was a good one or not, this is about whether Oklahoma City made a correct investment. Let’s look at what we know: Kendrick Perkins is 26-years-old; since 2007 he’s missed 67 regular season games due to a various assortment of injuries, including a strained left shoulder that’s provoked surgery and could be a recurring problem for the rest of his career, a torn right ACL, and a sprained left MCL; and he’s registered only 31 double-doubles (but averaged one for the 2009, Garnett-less playoffs).
But Kendrick Perkins is one of those players who you can’t quantify accurately using statistics, which is why he’s so damn perplexing. Now that Shaq’s gone, Perkins might be the most intimidating player in the league; that perma-scowl is only replaced with the wide-eyed incredulous look he gives to referees after they whistle him for a foul. Two years ago Perkins was ejected from a playoff game for walking away from the official, and he once said “F**k you, B***h” in the direction of Brad Miller after a particularly aggressive foul, loud enough for national audiences to hear crystal clear. Perkins isn’t dirty per se, sometimes it just feels like he’s playing in the wrong era.
Last year, the Thunder’s Harden, Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka unit was distinctly better on offense and slightly better on defense with Nick Collison instead of Perkins, who was the starter. Granted he was playing with a hurt knee, but Perkins’ PER in last year’s playoffs was an abysmal 6.1, his blocking percentage from the previous year fell from just below five to just above two percent, and his defensive rating was a career playoff high 110. He played 66 more minutes than Collison but looking at the numbers it’s difficult to see why.
Kendrick Perkins is a valuable player, yes. But asking whether or not he’ll be 100 percent healthy for the rest of his career is a legitimate concern, and the primary reason this contract could become Sam Presti’s biggest mistake.
Orlando Magic: Gilbert Arenas, six-year, $110 million in July 2008.
Otherwise known as the cocked and loaded 12 gauge shotgun pointed straight at Otis Smith’s forehead, this contract comfortably sits in the Throne of Debilitation. The consequences in taking it on could serve as a guillotine to Smith’s bare neck, and might even reach far enough to signal the beginning of the end of professional basketball in Orlando, Florida. The latter part of that statement isn’t as outlandish as it sounds, and that explains in small part why the league is in such an economically tumultuous situation right now.
Three years ago Gilbert Arenas was a legitimate MVP candidate. Last season he would’ve been lucky to resemble a third of the player who acted as the onetime unofficial ambassador for Washington D.C. basketball. In a way Gilbert’s demise was a minor representation of Orlando’s. Both had an ugly, disappointing year. Both, so it seems, may never recover.
I wonder about Arenas, whether he was ever healthy last season or if one foot had simply fallen inside the league’s revolving door. Heading into next season Arenas won’t be seen as one of the best 200 players in a league he once twirled on the tip of his finger. The gun-toting drama which set in motion his downfall was self-induced, yet because of its well-traveled level of embarrassment, it’s made him a pitied man. At his high point, Arenas was the NBA’s Ochocinco, blogging for NBA.com and connecting with fans on an unmatched level. He was honest—albeit strange—and people liked it. But as his basketball abilities continue to fall off the grid, so did his popularity. He’s a depressing man whose largest supporter could be on his way out of town, and should that happen Gilbert Arenas may be collecting undeserved checks somewhere far, far away from the spotlight he once loved.
Philadelphia 76ers: Elton Brand, five-year, $79,795,500 in July 2008.
Stealing from Zach Lowe’s Top 100 Players List over on The Point Forward, here’s Brand, coming in at 50:
Brand’s days as a 20-10 force are over, but he’s still a solid, snarling presence who helps his team on both ends of the floor. He is a very good offensive rebounder who has developed a reliable mid-range shot, making him a threat in the post, on pick-and-pops and as a spot-up release valve. Having a power forward who can do all of that is an asset on any team.
He’s a decent all-around defender who held his own despite being asked to work as a de facto center in Philadelphia’s small lineups. That meant guarding the league’s biggest players and doing his best to cover for Thaddeus Young on the glass. Brand wasn’t up for that every night, but he works hard, makes sound decisions and did well enough to make coach Doug Collins comfortable playing his most explosive small-ball lineups.
Brand’s free-throw attempts and assist numbers are way down from his prime, and that reflects his demotion to second- or third-option status as he enters his NBA twilight. He can still throw a clever pass, and he’s just a nice guy to have around.
Agreed, buuuut going back to those first eight words: “Brand’s days as a 20-10 force are over…” pretty much solidifies this contract as one worth disposing of on a young, rapidly improving basketball team.
Phoenix Suns: Josh Childress, five-year $33.5 million signed in July 2010.
A strange one. Why Phoenix chose to give Jason Richardson’s money to Josh Childress, an unspectacular player who does nothing exceptionally well and is most known for spurning the NBA for a Greek vacation, is inexplicable. Upon making his triumphant return stateside, Childress responded with the worst season of NBA basketball in his career. He attempted all-time lows in FTA’s (a career 78 percent shooter from the line, Childress was 49 percent last season!) and points per 36 minutes. His assist and turnover percentages were the worst we’ve seen, and his PER dropped to 13, nearly five points lower than he’d last produced in Atlanta. Basically, Childress was terrible, and there’s no reason to believe he’ll turn things around.
Portland Trailblazers: Brandon Roy, five-year, $82,309,690 in August 2009.
Three years ago Roy was deemed the hardest cover in the league by a highly reputable defender. Not only was his ability to score efficient and effective, but it was done with such effortlessness—at the height of his career, Brandon Roy was so good it looked like he didn’t have to try. During the first round of last year’s playoffs, Roy accomplished something no peer could equal—not LeBron, Wade, or Kobe—when he almost singlehandedly brought his team back from the brink of certain death in an instant classic comeback effort to beat Dallas. It was either the final explosion in what should’ve been 10 years of unrelenting bombs, or, for the eternally optimistic, the signal of a player who’s ready to step back into a full-time role as Portland’s savior.
In all likelihood, the best case scenario will be a mixture of both. Thanks to two uncooperative knees, Roy will never again be the dominant offensive presence we saw three years ago. What he could do, however, if his mind is willing to accept the role, is become a perennial contender for Sixth Man of the Year, backing up Wesley Matthews or an untapped Nicolas Batum and dominating second units on a nightly basis. That’s a great piece to have on a championship winning team, but unfortunately when that piece is making the money Roy’s making, acquiring any other necessary components becomes very difficult. Introducing the league’s saddest contract.